Indian Head, MD — One of the Chesapeake Bay’s few remaining healthy streams could soon be seriously degraded if a plan to build a major highway moves forward. This threat landed Mattawoman Creek in the number four spot in America’s Most Endangered Rivers: 2009 edition. The listing was announced today in a press conference on the banks of the creek by American Rivers, the nation’s leading river conservation organization, and by local advocates.
The proposed extension to Charles County’s four-lane Cross County Connector would cut across the heart of the watershed and would also lead to development of thousands of acres of forests and wetlands. The project threatens clean water and an internationally-renowned, multimillion-dollar largemouth bass fishery.
American Rivers and its partners called on the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to stop the highway by denying a key wetland permit for the project. The agency is expected to decide on the permit within the next few weeks. A coalition of concerned citizens and groups called Smarter Growth Alliance for Charles County is urging residents to help block the permit.
“The only place this highway will lead is to dirty water, more traffic, and poorly planned development,” said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers. “Mattawoman Creek is a treasure of the Chesapeake Bay and we must keep it that way.”
“This four-lane highway and its induced development would push the Chesapeake Bay’s most productive fish nursery over the edge. How can we save the Bay if we allow its gems to slip away?” said Jim Long of the Mattawoman Watershed Society.
Scientists note that once ten percent of a watershed is covered by impervious surfaces like roads, parking lots and rooftops, stream health and clean water suffer significantly. The Mattawoman Creek watershed is already approaching this ten percent limit, and the highway would push it over the brink. The Army Corps of Engineers stated that intense development of the watershed would have “severe repercussions on the biological community and would decrease the habitat quality within the estuary.” Also at risk is the economic loss of the county’s “natural” infrastructure -- the healthy forests, wetlands and floodplains that filter water, provide natural flood protection, and contribute to the overall health of the Bay.
“We need to grow smarter. This is the 21st century, and we can have transportation options that don’t compromise our clean water, quality of life, and the health of our Chesapeake Bay,” said Bonnie Bick of the Sierra Club Maryland Chapter. “Instead of a highway that increases traffic, pollution and sprawl, we need rail and transit options that support healthy communities.”
“This threat to the Mattawoman is symptomatic of ineffective planning and local decision making throughout Maryland. We should be steering development toward areas of the county and state that can handle it, not into unspoiled watersheds,” said Kim Coble, Maryland executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, a group pushing new “smart growth” legislation in Maryland.
Nestled among still-extensive forests in this growing region, Mattawoman Creek sustains a thriving recreation industry and is one of the region’s largest tourist draws. Kayaking and canoeing are prized experiences on the creek’s quiet tidal waters, while scores of bass fishing tournaments are launched from its shores every year as part of the Potomac River’s internationally-renowned, multimillion-dollar largemouth bass fishery.
About America’s Most Endangered Rivers
Each year, American Rivers solicits nominations from thousands of river groups, environmental organizations, outdoor clubs, local governments, and taxpayer watchdogs for the America’s Most Endangered Rivers report. The report highlights the rivers facing the most uncertain futures rather than those suffering from the worst chronic problems. The report presents alternatives to proposals that would damage rivers, identifies those who make the crucial decisions, and points out opportunities for the public to take action on behalf of each listed river.
American Rivers President Rebecca Wodder and Senior Director of Clean Water Katherine Baer are available for interviews, both pre and post embargo. Please contact Angela Dicianno (202) 347-7550 x3103 for booking.
Reporters wishing to direct readers to the report online may use the following link: www.AmericanRivers.org/EndangeredRivers
American Rivers is the leading organization working to protect and restore the nation’s rivers and streams. Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Since 1973, American Rivers has fought to preserve these connections, helping protect and restore more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual release of America’s Most Endangered Rivers®.
Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 100,000 supporters, members, and volunteers nationwide. Visit www.americanrivers.org, www.facebook.com/americanrivers and www.twitter.com/americanrivers.